Ukraine: presidential election

ukraineOn 31 March the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, will defend his presidency in Ukrainian elections. This sham of democracy, played out by the same oligarchic forces which in 2014 launched a violent Western-backed coup to overthrow the previously elected president and government, is bereft of any legitimacy. Thousands of people described by the Kiev junta as Ukrainian citizens living in the east of the country are nevertheless disenfranchised from voting. Those who can vote, and are prepared to brave the climate of daily political violence now permeating public life to do so, are faced with a dizzying choice of 44 candidates.

This mirage of freedom of choice dissipates when it is realised that most of the candidates have no realistic prospects of election and are simply using the presidential hustings to get themselves known as likely candidates in future parliamentary elections. As for the tiny handful with any hope of becoming the next president, they all represent the vested interests of one or other of the oligarchic gangs which have handed the country over to NATO and the EU, in the process transforming it into an armed camp and bleeding the public exchequer dry whilst amassing vast personal fortunes.

Opinion polls, unscientific at the best of times, are notoriously unreliable in Ukraine, where he who pays the piper so clearly calls the tune. Early polls claimed to show Poroshenko falling behind his veteran sparring partner Yulia Tymoshenko. More recent figures suggest that both of these gang bosses are losing ground to an upstart newcomer, one Vladimir Zelensky, previously known to the public as playing the part of a fictitious president in a TV soap opera. Claims that this outsider could inject a breath of fresh air into this rank stew of political corruption do not stand up to scrutiny however, as it turns out that he is fronting for the billionaire Igor Kolomoisky, who has been using his stake in the TV industry to plug his presidential candidate. In short, you can vote for whoever you like, but the winner will be one or other wing of the kleptocratic elite which enriches itself whilst the masses suffer.

According to a report in 2018 by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme, over a million people in Ukraine are suffering from acute food insecurity. And a recent survey by the World Bank concluded that at the current rate, it would take fifty years for Ukraine’s economy to catch up with Poland’s, and a hundred to match Germany’s. Such facts do not find their way into the feverish hustings: Tymoshenko’s campaign promise is to bring salaries up to Polish levels in just five years! As the masses endure the horrors of austerity and war, the personal wealth of just three Ukraine billionaires amounts to over 6% of the entire country’s gross domestic product (World Bank figures).

How ‘multi’ is the OSCE’s ‘multilateralism’?

Striving to give this electoral farce some shred of credibility, Ukraine’s central election commission has registered no fewer than 226 observers from international organisations and countries, including 90 observers invited by the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe). Having scoured the world for observers, the OSCE submitted an application for the accreditation of two long-term observers from Ukraine’s next door neighbour, Russia, to participate in the OSCE mission. However, Kiev turned the application down and, sooner than apply pressure on the junta to let the accreditation stand, the gutless OSCE contented itself by issuing a self-exculpating statement saying that “After it became clear that the Ukrainian authorities would not accredit the Russian observers, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it had decided not to send the observers, citing security concerns”. Rather than take the junta to task for trying to pick and choose who did the observing, the OSCE caved in, making it clear that if Russia sent observers into the lions’ den they need expect no guarantees regarding their personal safety.

No such problems dog Canada’s plans to send scrutineers to Ukraine however. The Trudeau government, fresh from acting as hatchet man on behalf of US imperialism in the Huawei scandal, is now proposing to send not one but two fully fledged observer missions to Ukraine. In addition to Canada’s full participation in the multilateral OSCE mission, there will also be a bilateral Canada-led mission cooked up directly between Canada and Ukraine itself – presumably in case the OSCE gets the wrong answer (and also to curry favour with the 1.3 or so million Canadians of Ukrainian descent) (Mike Blanchfield, ‘Canadian election observers arrive in Ukraine amid fears of Russian meddling’, The Canadian Press, 13 February 2019).

Whichever gangster boss scrambles up the greasy pole first, and whatever excesses of vote-rigging and dirty tricks characterise these elections, the real choice facing the Ukrainian masses is clear: either allow the country to go on being used as a dispensable launchpad from which NATO and the EU can further their preparations for war against the Russian Federation, whilst social chaos and economic ruin make life a misery for millions; or discover common cause with the anti-fascist struggle of the courageous people of the Donbas.